WACO, Texas (BP) — The Baptist General Convention of Texas’ 131st annual meeting focused on “Celebrating Service” through worship and business sessions, workshops and a variety of events, with 1,157 messengers and 663 visitors in attendance Nov. 13-15 in Waco.
Messengers approved a 2017 budget of $36.64 million for funding ministries, missions and BGCT institutional partnerships, compared to the 2016 budget of $37.99 million.
For 2015, Jill Larsen, Texas Baptists’ treasurer and CFO, reported that receipts showed the convention’s Cooperative Program revenue declined $2.2 million to a total of $43.3 million, with the Texas portion of $30.2 million down $1.3 million from 2014. The Southern Baptist Convention portion of $10.7 million was down $600,000 for the same period.
The convention enables each church to designate the percentage of its gifts that will be used for BGCT missions and ministries and the percentage for one of three worldwide partners: the Southern Baptist Convention, BGCT Worldwide or the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. The convention recommends that congregations designate 79 percent of their cooperative gifts for BGCT ministries and 21 percent for a worldwide partner, but the 79-21 split is not mandatory.
Executive Director David Hardage, in his report on Monday evening, highlighted a new partnership with the Brazilian Baptist Convention called the Missionary Adoption Program (MAP) through which churches can co-sponsor an indigenous missionary in the Amazon along with a partnering Brazilian church.
Hardage also spoke of new Texas Baptists initiatives, introducing several staff members overseeing key ministry areas. Leonid Regheta joined the staff this year as director of Project:Start, a refugee resource center serving 30,000 refugees in the Dallas area of Vickery Meadow. Leighton Flowers was introduced as director of apologetics and youth evangelism, providing churches with information on how to contend for the faith in an ever-changing culture through regional unApologetic conferences featuring national leaders in apologetics such as Lee Strobel, Michael Licona and Mark Mittelberg.
“It’s going to take more ways and more people to reach the world for Christ than what we are doing now,” Hardage said in emphasizing the need for expanding ministries.
In Monday’s business session, officers for 2016-2017 were elected including Danny Reeves, pastor of First Baptist Church in Corsicana, as president; Joseph Fields, pastor of New Beginnings Baptist Church in Lewisville, as first vice president; and Jim Heiligman, pastor of First Baptist Church in Bryan, as second vice president. Reeves previously served as second vice president and this is the first term of service for Fields and Heiligman.
Keynote speakers included Strobel, a New York Times best-selling author and professor of Christian thought at Houston Baptist University, and Cleophus LaRue, homiletics professor at Princeton Theological Seminary and a B.A. and M.A. Baylor University graduate.
Texas Baptists’ President René Maciel, community life pastor at First Baptist Church in Woodway, moderated worship and business sessions.
“This Gospel is to be proclaimed to everybody, even if only received by some,” LaRue said during his Monday evening address.
During Tuesday’s morning worship and business session, messengers voted to approve two motions regarding how and for what reason a church may be removed from harmonious cooperation with the churches of the convention.
The first motion, brought to the floor by Steve Wells, pastor of South Main Baptist Church in Houston, set in place a procedure to consistently address churches considered to be outside of harmonious cooperation. The procedure granted the Executive Board, with a two-thirds vote, the authority to remove a congregation outside of harmonious cooperation.
The second motion, brought to the floor by Craig Christina, pastor of Shiloh Terrace Baptist Church in Dallas, reaffirmed the BGCT’s longstanding historical position on biblical human sexuality and marriage, specifically within the context of considering whether churches are within harmonious cooperation.
The motion stated, “because of the historical and biblical positions of the BGCT as stated in multiple resolutions, motions, and actions, that any church which affirms any sexual relationship outside the bonds of a marriage between one man and one woman be considered out of harmonious cooperation with the Baptist General Convention of Texas.”
Additional business included approving an amendment of Baptist Health Foundation of San Antonio’s Certification of Formation and Bylaws to remove BGCT as sole member and approving an amendment of Baptist Foundation of Texas’ Certificate of Formation and Bylaws to allow Baptist Foundation of Texas to serve non-Baptist charitable organizations whose mission and purpose are not inconsistent with Baptist faith and belief and to remove BGCT as the sole member.
Many workshops were standing room only, addressing pressing topics such as the future of Christian higher education, refugee assistance, 5-point Calvinism and the historicity of the Gospel.
Woven throughout the annual gathering was a common thread of cooperation, with an emphasis on the necessity of partnership to reach the state of Texas and beyond with the Gospel through commitment to fulfilling the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.
During his address, Hardage noted he preaches in different Texas Baptist congregations and, while each church is unique, “one thing remains the same. Our pastors are diligently preaching the Gospel. Thank you churches, thank you pastors. God bless you.”
Next year’s annual meeting will be Nov. 12-14 in Waco.